What Is the History of Imbolc?
In between the middle of the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox lies the Celtic festival of Imbolc. Dating back to pre-Christian times, Imbolc celebrations revolved around the Goddess Brigid. Ancient Celtic mythology explains that she was born with a flame in her head and immediately drank the milk of a mystical cow upon birth, which is where her common symbols of a flame and dairy originated from. She also represents fertility, and many women would travel to her sacred wells (the most popular one in Kildare, Ireland) to drink their water in hopes of conceiving shortly after. During Imbolc celebrations, those celebrating would light bonfires and make dairy-rich meals in honor of Brigid.
Now, Imbolc coincides with Saint Brigid’s feast day. Historians have shown that when Christianity was spreading throughout Ireland, the church was having a difficult time convincing pagans to let go of their gods and goddesses. Thus, Brigid was “reborn” into Saint Brigid, and her representations (i.e., fertility, the flame, and dairy farmers) were kept the same.
How Can I Celebrate Imbolc?
Depending on your own spiritual practice, there are a variety of ways to celebrate Imbolc. Below are a few ideas to help get you started:
Set Up Your Imbolc Altar.
Like many Sabbats, an altar plays a large role in your Imbolc celebration. Since the holiday is centered around Brigid, incorporate her colors (red and white) onto your altar. This can be done in the forms of flowers, fabrics, or crystals. It’s also recommended to incorporate candles around the altar, symbolizing Brigid’s flame and bringing light into the winter darkness.
Make Brigid’s Cross.
One representation of Brigid is the goddess’s cross. By creating this cross, you’re welcoming her into your home for the upcoming spring season. It’s also said to protect your home from future fires or destruction. A tutorial on how to create your own cross can be found here.
Cook an Imbolc-Inspired Dinner.
Since Brigid is the guardian of the hearth and home, it’s best to celebrate with foods that honor just that—including loaves of bread, grains, and dairy products. Check out these Imbolc-inspired recipes for feast ideas.
What Herbs Can I Use to Celebrate Imbolc?
There are a number of herbs used to celebrate Imbolc. Take a look at a few common ones listed below.
Bay leaves have long been associated with the fire element. In traditional Imbolc rituals, they have been used as an offering to the sun. By carrying around bay leaves, it can bring you prosperity for the upcoming season. Consider writing down your future goals and intentions, and placing your bay leaves in a spell jar. This way, they’ll serve as a reminder for your future intentions.
Similar to bay leaves, rosemary is a herb that has a connection to fire. For spellwork, rosemary is an excellent herb to use for cleansing or purification purposes. A common cleansing ritual includes adding rosemary to your bath. You can also incorporate rosemary into your Imbolc feast by adding it into recipes.
This beautiful feminine herb evokes both fertility and the divine feminine within. This is a wonderful herb to use for fertility spells or outer cleansing—similar to rosemary. However, heather can be difficult to find. For convenience purposes, use heather tea bag leaves in your Imbolc ritual.
Final Thoughts on Imbolc
During the holiday of Imbolc, be sure to tend to your own inner flame. To do so, practice the rituals listed above and celebrate spring’s upcoming light. Regardless of how you practice, make sure to honor yourself and the season.